Mean Gene
Mean Gene
Pittsburgh's most decorated poker blogger, which I admit is like being the best shortstop in Greenland

Subscribe with Bloglines

My Articles

Presto, the Arlo, & the Hammer
An Online Code of Conduct
The Ethics of Ratholing
"The Professor, the Banker..."
"Ace on the River"

My Columns

Lose the Shades
If You Can't Say Something Nice
Whither the Kicker
The Lady is a Champ?
Covering the WSOP (or not)
Statistics, Luck, and Poker
Poker and New Orleans
Managing a Bankroll
How To Tell A Bad Beat Story
Telling Lies
The Power of Poker Tracker
Advanced Card-Handling

My Greatest Hits

5 Things To Do Before I Die
Cafeteria Nostalgia
Mean Gene's Dubious Dating Tips
Poker and Business?
There's No Such Thing As Luck?
Isabelle, Je t'adore
No Shirt No Shoes No Service
Well, The Food Was Good
Good Morning, Mr. Matusow!
The Weekend of our Discontent, I
The Weekend of our Discontent, II
Books That Left Their Mark
Ode to a Fish Sandwich
Bill Simmons Ain't the Poker Guy
The Sports Guy Still Ain't the Poker Guy
Again, The Media Tackles Poker
Five Years After 9/11
Hitting Pretty Girls in the Face
Sixth-Graders Suck

Fellow Poker Bloggers

Guinness and Poker
Cards Speak
Tao of Poker
Up for Poker
Boy Genius
Chris Halverson
Poker Grub
The Fat Guy
Todd Commish
Poker Works
Bill Rini
Bad Blood
Love and Casino War
Double As
Lion Tales
Paul Phillips
Daniel Negreanu
Poker Nerd
Poker Nation
Poker in Arrears
Human Head
Sound of a Suckout
Chicks With Chips
TP's Table Talk
Royal Poker
This is Not A Poker Blog
Chick and a Chair
Go Be Rude
Poker Cheapskate
Poker & Other Stuff
Seven Two
Musical Poker
WPBT Online
Isabelle Mercier
Cardschat Blog
Amy Calistri
BJ Nemeth
Annie's Blog

Poker Sites

Cardschat Poker Forum
Barstool Sports
Card Player
Internet Texas Hold-Em
Poker Pages


  • 12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004
  • 01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004
  • 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004
  • 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004
  • 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004
  • 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004
  • 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004
  • 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004
  • 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004
  • 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004
  • 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004
  • 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004
  • 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005
  • 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005
  • 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005
  • 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005
  • 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005
  • 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005
  • 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005
  • 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005
  • 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005
  • 09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005
  • 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005
  • 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005
  • 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006
  • 01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006
  • 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006
  • 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006
  • 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006
  • 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006
  • 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006
  • 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006
  • 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006
  • 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006
  • 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006
  • 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006
  • 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007
  • 01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007
  • 02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007
  • 03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007
  • 04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007
  • 05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007
  • 06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007
  • 07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007

  • Powered by Blogger

    Wednesday, March 31, 2004

    Waktaskshi wa Gene desu. That's two years of schoolin'

    In college I decided to take Japanese, because I've always been fascinated by the culture and thought it would make me a more valuable cog in the global economy. I made it thru the first two semesters, but during the third term you had to actually use kanji and hiragana and katakana on the exams, and my fate was sealed. If I were Japanese I'd be illiterate. I couldn't make my hands make the symbols, even if I had the characters right in front of me. On the first exam I looked at the questions, watched my classmates (many of whom were Asian and, I think, considered this class a cakewalk) scribble away, and I decided it was time to face the facts. I handed in my exam, said "Domo arigato", and walked straight to the Liberal Arts building to drop the class.

    Even though I washed out, studying a different language really gives you insight into your native tongue. It was especially helpful for an English major like myself learning the different syntax and grammar of Japanese (and French, which I took in high school and college). Now, how the hell does this apply to poker? It occured to me recently that I've only been playing poker for about six months, that I have a lot to learn, and that my month-long run of poor results is perhaps an indication that I need to go back to Poker School and stop worrying about building my bankroll up so I can buy a new laptop.

    Summer is also on the way, meaning I'll be outdoors more and playing less. And I'm also going to be the antithesis of Iggy--playing less and writing more. My bankroll is still healthy for the levels I'm playing, tho I'm not going to be buying in to this year's World Series. I've been getting massacred lately, the last 3 weeks or so have been brutal, and I can't say that it's all because of the fish. I'm not playing well. I may be in a bit of a rut.

    To get out of it I'm taking a few steps. One, do more reading, especially McEvoy and Cloutier's book on Pot- and No-Limit which has a new edition coming out. I've been playing Pot-Limit mostly even though I haven't done much reading on it and think it preys on my weakness at the table, namely aggressiveness. I need to learn what the hell I'm doing so I can hit the tables with a vengeance.

    My brother's been struggling as well, and he's started playing 7-card stud as well as Hold-Em. And that's where my Japanese example comes into play. I've always been interested in Omaha, it seems to be the game the top pros consider the best test of skill (tho Hi-Lo is I think the game of the moment). So as I study Hold-Em I'm also going to school myself in Omaha, both to broaden my poker horizons and hopefully gain some insight into Hold-Em by coming at poker from a different direction. Thinking about the game outside the constrictions of two cards down, flop, turn, river will hopefully get my brain going again and whip my overall game into shape.

    I played some Omaha tonight, won a quick hand, and then lost 3 hands with trip aces, an ace-to-the-five straight and a full house. Uh, time to hit the books, grind out a few thousand hands, and maybe be ready for next year's WSOP. Maybe.

    Monday, March 29, 2004

    If I had a hammer...I'd knock out Pauly

    Last night I either proved that my Grublog win was no fluke, that we pokerbloggers ain't exactly no-limit savants, or that lightning sometimes does strike twice in the same place. I finished third last night in Felicia's first PJK event, and it was a blast. I played some fantastic poker--except for the times I got ridiculously lucky and the times I made boneheaded plays.

    The game got off with bang--a big bang--when Felicia went all in on Gpoker on the first hand. Of course I figured he'd capitulate in the face of Felicia ferocity, but no, he called and turned up pocket aces to her pocket queens. Just like that the organizer and driving force behind the whole shindig was out. Felicia handled her loss far better than I would have (she didn't burst into tears and scream for her Mommy) and she provided encouragment and play-by-play the rest of the way.

    There is a big difference, I've now discovered, between playing with "good" players and the fishy feeding frenzy at PartyPoker. Several times I had good starting hands, raised the blinds, and won the pot right then and there. I was happy to do so--in fact, a few times that's exactly what I wanted. Stealing blinds is a skill all good players develop, and one I don't get much chance to work on because its virtually impossible to shake the fish from their hands. You go all in with AA and you get a couple of yutzes holding J-9 and K-10 who think think this is their chance to double up. But last night I was aggressive in late position and picked up some little pots that let me be more aggressive later on.

    By "more aggressive" read "totally insane". I had about $3500 and was cruising along when I was dealt the Hammer. The action was folded around to me and I limped in, and I mean limped. Now, I had Pauly next to me, and he was down to about $800, and I just KNEW he'd go all in. Of course he did, but I figured that it was worth the kick just to maybe double him up with the Hammer, and maybe, just maybe, even take him out.

    Genius me didn't even notice that Rick Blaine was still in, making my play really, really stupid. But before I could really beat myself up a magical flop appeared: 2-7-A. Two pair and suddenly I was a genius. Ugarte bet into me, and not wanting to give him a chance to catch another card (and hoping that he would fold so I wouldn't crack him with such a savage beat) I went all-in. He thought about it, thought about it...and called. He had AQ, Pauly had A8, and two cards later the Hammer had once again dealt a mighty blow to poker sanity.

    There was general bedlam in the chat, of course. Two Noo Yawkers taken out by The Pittsburgh Kid, showing the Big Apple boys how we do things dahntahn. I didn't gloat because I saw clouds gathering in the distance, the Poker Gods ready to hurl some bad beats if I reveled in my win a bit too much. Winning that hand gave me about $6500 in chips, and I decided that now was the time to tighten up and see how things played out down the stretch.

    For awhile I thought my table was the final table, and when we got to five I thought I had a good chance to place...until there was one of those time-distortion moments and ten of us were gathered around a newly-formed table. I was between EOS and GPoker, not the best place to be, I soon learned. There was one additional factor to deal with--EOS's avatar was a very shapely woman, and even tho I knew EOS, in fact, WASN'T a woman shapely or otherwise still didn't keep me from thinking that I had a hot chick on my right. And dammit if my male-chauvinist/chivalric tendencies didn't rise to the surface from time to time. When I won a hand I felt a twinge of guilt. When I lost I found myself mouthing the words, "You BITCH!". As the players dwindled away I tried to force myself to focus on the game and not the computer-generated characters representing us.

    Focus came hard because I'd drunk two 20-ounce bottles of water and I had to answer nature's call. A call that grew more and more insistent by the minute. I could have just stepped away and done what needed to be done, but of course I'd come back to my seat just in time to see myself auto-folding pocket aces. I hung in there until the break--when there were only 3 of us left. I excused myself a few blissful moments, and returned to the fray refreshed and ready to rumble.

    I was out about 5 hands later. At one point before the break I was the chip leader, but I made 2 horrible plays almost in a row. I was dealt J-6 in the big blind and saw the flop come something like J-8-2. I bet, but not too much, say 2500. EOS put me all-in, and I had to fold. Like 2 hands later I'm dealt K-6 of clubs and the flop comes K-rag-rag. I bet about 3000...and EOS puts me all in. How the hell do I call an all-in bet with that kicker? More to the point, how do I bet it in the first place. Check, or put the guy all-in. Make HIM decide, not you.

    My last hand came when I still had about $8000 in chips, enough to last a bit with the blinds $300-600. I was dealt the mighty 8-4 offsuit. The flop came 9-4-2, and this time it was EOS who made what I thought was a timid $3000 bet. There was about $5000 in the pot and I went all-in, figuring to win the whole thing. Uh, no. He called, a 9 and a Q fell, and he turned over Q9 to make the full house that crushed my fours and nines.

    I was furious at myself for such a string of terrible plays. I never felt comfortable when we got 3-handed, mostly because EOS kept bashing me, and my response was to tighten up instead of bashing back. I did steal some blinds and won a few pots, but I wasn't too pleased with how I frittered away my chips. I got bullied, and it didn't sit well with me. Still doesn't.

    GPoker came back from a big deficit and finally won the whole thing when his K-high flush beat EOS's Q-high. It was a blast, and I look forward to playing next week. I'm sure Pauly and Ugarte are gonna spend the next week thinking up elaborate ways to break me next Sunday night. Well, bring it on, I say. That's why this Gene is called Mean.

    Sunday, March 28, 2004

    What lessons can business execs learn from poker? The wrong ones, apparently

    Iggy recently posted a link to an article in Fast Company titled "The B in Business Stands for Bluff". The article features the omnipresent Phil Hellmuth, who charges ten grand to lead poker tutorials for corporate gatherings. Poker, the article says, is the ultimate forum for liars. A player with a lousy hand can, through deception and deviousness, take a pot away from the player with the better hand. To quote from the article:

    "In what other sport, Hellmuth asks, can the player with the least amount of skill, resources, or experience come up a winner, merely on the strength of a bluff? None, except perhaps the sport of business.

    "Poker is really about reading people," Hellmuth says. "What happens when you bluff? What does it look like when the other guy bluffs? Does he look right, does he look left? Under what circumstances does he fold or call? Poker is about understanding human behavior and managing emotions--yours and the other guy's. That's huge in poker, and it's huge in business."

    As odd as it might seem for the Poker Brat to extol managing emotions, I fully endorse his point so far as it pertains to poker. How important it is in business is another matter. If you're negotiating a multi-million dollar deal and the other side just offered you a price 30% lower than you expected, it might be to your benefit not to jump about and down and shriek with delight. Likewise, you don't want to pull a Sonny Corleone and embarass you boss when the other side makes an offer you find personally insulting. But unless you're a professional dealmaker, you're going to be dealing more with your co-workers, suppliers, and customers than directly locking horns with those you'd like to trick and sucker.

    Although the article doesn't bring this up, there is a big difference between "bluffing" and "lying". Bluffing is a fundamental part of poker. If it wasn't for bluffing there would be no reason for the cards to be dealt face down, the dealer would share out the cards and push the chips to the player lucky enough to catch the best hand. Bluffing is not only kosher, it's expected. You know the other guy might be bluffing. You have to guess whether he is or not. That's part of the game, a big part.

    In business, you would be naive to think that everything you're told is the gospel truth. People will obfuscate, hedge, dissemble, and fib. Sometimes they'll lie right to your face. But business people who regularly lie will often find it hard to find people to lie to, as word gets around and no one will deal with them anymore. Lie at the wrong time--like on your tax return, or in a contract, and you might be guilty of fraud, which might land you some time in the hoosegow. Even if you get away with your lie, you've probably pissed off the other party no end, and making enemies isn't profitable. God help you if you lie to your customers--there's an old maxim I'm no doubt misquoting, but it says something along the lines of "If a customer has a good experience with your business he'll tell a friend. If he has a BAD experience he'll tell TEN friends". Think about it--you go to a restaurant, and it's really good. You casually mention it at work the next day. You go to another restaurant, and it's like Chinese prison chow. That's a story you'll be stopping people in the hallway to tell.

    So perhaps executives should be worrying about things other than developing their lying skills. But let's examine the article in question. The piece lists Hellmuth's poker takeaways, little tips he gives and then an example showing how each applies to the business world. Let me address them one by one.

    Bluff when you can, not when you have to. Bluffing is a strategy, not a last resort. Think of Steve Case, who "bluffed" Time Warner's Gerald Levin into believing that 30 million dial-up subscribers were worth Time Warner's decades-old media empire--for a $99 billion pot.

    This is utter bullshit.

    To say that Steve Case "bluffed" Gerald Levin into making the worst business decision since Caveman Ook offered Caveman Oop a handful of moss in exchange for the hot glowing orangy thing Oop made by rubbing two sticks together is ludicrous. If Case believed that AOL's stock was overvalued and that he could maybe swing a deal using the stock to buy some "real" assets, i.e. Time Warner, that's a move that's been repeated over and over again in corporate mergers and takeovers.

    But in this article the word "bluff" is a synonym for "lie", and if somehow Case lied to and/or tricked Levin into making a deal that would be catastrophic for Time Warner shareholders he should be burned at the same stake as Bernie Ebbers and Kenneth Lay. Because those Time Warner shareholders weren't bought out--they were given AOL/Time Warner stock in exchange for their current holdings, making them Case's new shareholders. And screwing them over by lying about the true value of your company would be corporate malfeasance at its most appalling. AOL/Time Warner shed about $50 billion in market value in the years following the merger, and I'm sure your typical Time Warner shareholder would like to see Levin drawn and quartered in Super-Slo-Mo. But I think both Case and Levin thought this deal would be the signature moment of each other's career. Staid old Time Warner would become a sexy Internet company, and AOL would have oodles and oodles of Time Warner content to offer their subscribers. That this dream turned out to be a total canard has, I think, less to do with bluffing and trickery than shortsightedness and plain old bad business.

    Don't speak when you can nod. "Don't move when you can be still. And when you are the player with the action, never, ever raise your gaze across the felt. PeopleSoft CEO Craig Conway wisely let the courts deal with Oracle's $7.3 billion hostile bid for his company, while stealthily—if not quietly—going about his own business."

    If someone can explain this to me I'd appreciate it. "Don't speak when you can nod" sounds more like advice for a Mafia don than a corporate bureaucrat. How many articles have been written the last 20 years advising executives that clear communication with superiors and underlings is vital if mistakes and misunderstandings are to be avoided? If I'm going to do business with someone, and I'm not exactly sure just what the hell he wants and/or intends, how is that to either of our benefit?

    And if you take the example of two adversaries sitting across the table from one another, this still makes no sense. "Never, ever raise your gaze across the felt". Isn't Hellmuth's claim to fame his uncanny ability to read people? How do you do this if you don't look at the other guy? Has Phil developed Spidey-sense after playing for so long? I can imagine the scene—two groups of hotshot dealmakers sitting in a mahogany-paneled conference room, every person staring at his/her navel and bobbing their heads. This is the glamorous world of big business?

    I won't even ask how someone can act "stealthily" and yet not "quietly".

    Always be willing to fold a strong hand. "In his pursuit of PeopleSoft, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison stubbornly stuck to his initial all-cash, $5.1 billion bid, even after it became clear that getting the deal done would cost him almost 50% more than his bankers thought it was worth."

    If Ellison's bid was twice what the deal was worth, wouldn't this make it a weak hand? Pot odds teaches us that you don't put money in the pot if you don't think the return is worth the risk. If you have a pair of fours and the flop comes A-K-Q, and there's only one player remaining and he tosses in a buck, well, maybe he doesn't have a better hand than you, but he probably does, and if he doesn't how much money are you gonna win anyway? Unless you have a great read on your opponent (and you probably don't, since you've been staring at the floor all night), you toss your weak pair in the muck.

    And in business, if you have a strong hand (in other words, it appears you should make a good return on your investment), surrendering that position only makes sense if you decide the return ISN'T worth it. And that kind of decision is a lot more complex in the real world than it is sitting at a poker table when another player unexpectedly goes all-in on you.

    Always be willing to call with a weak hand. "Hellmuth once called a $100,000.00 bet with nothing more than "King-high"—just as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos "called" Wall Street in 1999 for a $1.25 billion debt offering even as Amazon was bleeding tens of millions of dollars in cash (The bankers folded, and Bezos got his deal).

    Amazon asking Wall Street to restructure its debt when it was losing money was perhaps an act of desperation, just as their bankers agreeing to do it was equally desperate. Amazon was losing money, but the bankers risked losing a bundle as well, with the humiliation of getting stiffed in the middle of the go-go Nineties. But, again, I can't see how the poker example fits here. What was Bezos going to do—let Amazon go bankrupt? What were the bankers going to do—let Amazon go bankrupt? Neither side had much incentive to "fold", and Amazon had none whatsoever. As you mother always told you, it never hurts to ask.

    It also says Phil "once" called a $100K bet with K-high. I assume he won the hand. How many times has he—or any other poker player—called with a weak hand and berated themselves later for making such a stupid play? More times than anyone would like to admit. Wouldn't that be a valuable lesson for business people—don't throw bad money after good? Don't chase?

    Patience is the highest virtue. "Consider Dell, which has made a business—and good money, too—of letting other computer companies bring innovative technologies to market, then pouncing with its own lower-cost direct-sales model. Case in point: Dell's Digital Jukebox, a knockoff of Apple's iPod for 30% less."

    Here the writer didn't even bother making a poker reference. Perhaps her deadline loomed and she needed five points for some holistic reason. Patience is, of course, very important in poker. Especially in the grinding world of low-limit poker patience is an absolute must. You have to be willing to sit through hour after hour of rags until you get that one hand that's playable. But if patience is your ONLY virtue, you're not going to make much money. You have to be aggressive, you have to be subtle, you can't let your opponents pigeonhole you and predict your actions with a high degree of accuracy. In no-limit poker, which Hellmuth is best known for, patience is how you get blinded down to the felt.

    I also don't understand how Dell's business model is an example of "patience". Their strength is taking off-the-shelf components and customizing computers for each customer and selling them at a competitive price. I doubt that Dell's Digital Jukebox is a huge piece of Dell's business, just as I don't know how well it's actually doing against the almost-as-hot-as-poker iPod.

    The article also gives a listing of "Great Poker Primers", and of course Phil Hellmuth's "Play Poker Like the Pros" is the first one listed. We won't discuss the journalistic ethics of using a person as the main source for a story and then promoting that person's business in the same article because there's not much to discuss. David Sklansky's "Theory of Poker" is described as a "cult" classic, though I don't think grouping the majority of serious poker players as a "cult" is exactly fair. I really don't understand calling Jim McManus's "Positively Fifth Street" an "avant-garde management crib sheet". McManus's book is a lot of things—a report on Vegas mores, a personal biography, and a thrilling tale of a underdog battling the Titans of poker—but it ain't a management book. I think Jim himself would agree to that.

    So the article was mostly horseshit. But are there lessons for business folks to learn from poker? Sure. As I said before, you shouldn't throw good money after bad. You have to learn how to cut your losses when a positive return is unlikely. You also have to learn, as good poker players do, that once you put money in the pot it isn't yours anymore. If you've thrown your money down a sinkhole and there's little or no hope of getting it back, cut your losses and walk. Putting another million into a project in the slim hope of getting back some of your initial $300,000.00 investment is a bad idea.

    Fiscal discipline is another lesson business people and poker players alike should heed. When business is booming it's hard to resist every deal that comes along, no matter how lamebrained or wasteful it might be. Business are often like the Federal Government--if there's money lying around, they'll find a way to spend it. The smart business person knows that rainy days are always on the horizon, and maintaining the same standards in good times as well as bad can go a long way toward keeping you solvent when it hits the fan.

    Likewise, poker players who get on a hot streak almost always think that NOW is the time to move up. If you're killing the $1-2 tables, its time to try $2-4. Or $4-8. Even if your bankroll is barely sufficient for your current game. That's risking a quick trip to the Poker Hospital when you luck cools and the fish start rivering you to death. Waiting for your bankroll to grow as big as your ego is tough to do, but the Poker Gods will undoubtedly reward your discipline.

    If you watch the WPT one refrain you hear over and over again is that the players love the competition in poker. Competition junkies can find a ready fix at the table, where you only have to wait a few minutes for the next deal to return to the battle. Competition is at the heart of capitalism, where the struggle to offer better stuff at a better price than the other guy makes the world a better place for everyone (if you believe Adam Smith). If the worlds of poker and business share some simliarities, one is hardly a microcosm of the other. And if you think mastery of poker leads inexhorably to success in business (or vice-versa), well, I've got a nice piece of property in the Everglades you might find intriguing. Interested?

    Wednesday, March 24, 2004

    Anyone know an exorcist?

    Don't talk to me about variance. Don't tell me that everyone goes through lean times. Don't tell me that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Don't recite that Kipling quote about treating success and adversity the same and you'll be a man my son etc etc. I don't want to hear it. I'm possessed. There's a malevolent little imp sitting on my shoulder and I can't brush him off. I don't need to tighten up my play or go down in limits--I need a priest.

    I haven't had a winning session since March 8. Now, I haven't played every day, but after 2 weeks of chip-dwindling action I'm about ready to take up crocheting. It isn't like I'm getting killed on the river on 2-outers--tho that's happened a few times. It isn't like I'm getting nibbled to death by fish--tho, again, I've been beaten by some ridiculous hands. No, the big problem is that I'm getting no cards at all. For about 2 weeks, and especially the last few days, I've been so cold-decked you'd think I was playing at the Ice Station Zebra Casino.

    How bad has it been? I played for about 2 hours last night, and during the first 100 hands I won one pot. Let me empasize here-- ONE. Now, I actually won 5, but four of them were hands where no one put money in except for the blinds. Twice I made a 50-cent bet and had everyone fold to me. So in those four pots I only won the blinds--and twice I was in the big blind and had it folded around to me. Even for a low-limit guy like me, winning a quarter doesn't get the juices flowing.

    I didn't win a hand--even the blinds--for the first 50 hands I played. The other day I started 0-38. One other time I was 0-33. Now, these things happen, I know, you hit a tough run of cards and you have to be patient. But, come on, throw me a crumb here!

    Here's how my games have gone recently--I twiddle my thumbs for a few orbits, pick up a barely-playable hand a lose a buck or two, more twiddling, lose another buck, finally get dealt a hand (JJ, say) and see the flop come AKQ suited (not matching the suits in my hand) and face a raise and a re-raise before it's time for me to muck (this actually happened).

    You know how sometimes you get dealt a hand and the flop comes and, lo and behold, you've got a flush draw or straight draw? You know how sometimes you make trips when you hold a pocket pair? I don't. Hasn't happened to me much. I checked my PokerTracker stats for the last few sessions and my cards were appalling. I didn't have one straight, not one, in like 350 hands. I had 4 flushes--and lost with all but one of them. Made trips twice, winning a small pot and losing a big one. The best thing I can say about this latest stretch is that I'm not losing THAT much because I'm not playing enough hands to really get nailed. Tho I did lose a bundle when I was dealt KK, by far my best recent hand, at the same time another player got AA. Ecch.

    So if you're driving through the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh and see a guy dancing around a bonfire while sacrificing a chicken, that's me.

    PartyPoker is on my shit list, and not because they're dealing me ludicrous cards. I've been playing at Empire, which of course is just Party in blue disguise. Unbeknownst to me, Party offered me a $20 bonus if I made a deposit with them. I missed their e-mail telling me this, but I didn't miss the e-mail telling me they were withdrawing the offer because I hadn't made a deposit. I e-mailed them back and said that I'd missed their original offer but if they offered me the $20 again I'd definitely make a deposit. Vamsi M. from Party emailed me back and told me they'd credit me the $20 once I made my next deposit. Well-pleased, I prepared to jump back to Party from Empire.

    With work a bear I didn't make my deposit for about a week. I was also taking advantage of a 15% deposit bonus Party was offering, so I stood to make a massive $70 by bonus whoring. My money went in, and I emailed Party to tell them my deposit was made and that, as agreed, they could deposit the $20 into my account.

    I received a reply telling me that the $20 offer had expired 3/4 and could no longer be honored. I told them that I explained my situation and was told the $20 would be credited my next deposit. I was told again that they couldn't give me the $20, but that I should be happy because they would give me $50 as soon as I played my 400 raked hands. I told them again that, as they could see if they scrolled down my reply, that I had been told by Party that they would give me the $20 even though I missed the original deadline. I got back the exact same reply I'd gotten the first time--sorry, the offer expired 3/4. Each time the note I got from Party was signed by a different person, and I finally surrendered. I don't want to debase myself arging over such piddling sums, since I'm saving my dignity so I can debase myself for REAL money.

    I got an anoymous comment the other day saying that "Mean Gene" and "Geno" are even stupider nicknames than Paul Phillps' nickname "". This anoymous person is wrong, and is probably hung like a cashew.

    OK, that's enough for now. More later.

    Saturday, March 20, 2004

    Some more random thoughts

    If I needed any more evidence that the life of a professional gambler is not for me, let me introduce my NCAA Tournament bracket into evidence. Everyone (i.e. the basketball intelligensia) picked Manhattan to beat underachieving Florida. I, taking the contrarian (i.e. stupid) view, thought that the Gators were about to make a surprise tournament run. So I picked them for the Elite Eight. And, of course, Manhattan made shoes and a very attractive attache case out of the Gators. Two hours into the tournament I was already screwed.

    I picked Charlotte for the Sweet Sixteen. Ah, no, they got beat. Picked Michigan State to go just as far. They didn't score the last 18 minutes of the second half (so it seemed) and got knocked out. So I'm toast. My yearly foray into the negative EV world of gambling has come and gone. Write the ten bucks off on my taxes.

    Then again, lately poker has been a negative EV event. I'm in one of those free-fall variance troughs that makes me wonder when I'll have a winning session again. My buddy Rick was over watching the games yesterday and I was playing cards at the same time, and I did OK, getting up around $10. We were about to go out to the bar to meet all our working-stiff friends, and before I could log off I was dealt KK. I was playing $1-2 limit, so I re-raised the original raiser and ended up getting re-raised. You can already guess where this is going, so I won't prolong the story. He had AA and took about $16 off me in one hand. We couldn't have left just five minutes earlier?

    OK, let's talk about the WPT a bit. I just got done watching the Bellagio tournament, and congrats to fellow-blogger Paul Phillips for winning the title and 1.1 million unimportant dollars. Well, unimportant to Paul, who said during both tournaments that he appeared in that the money didn't matter to him. I think during the Bicycle tournament Paul said, "Half a million dollars won't change my life".

    So why did he get together with Mel Judah and agree to chop the 1st and 2nd place money, as was reported in Sports Illustrated and presented on Iggy's site? If the money didn't mean anything to Paul, wouldn't the difference between the first and second place payout conceivably affect Judah's play? Mel might be too much the tournament veteran to be swayed by a couple hundred thousand dollars, but why take that chance? With the money chopped Judah would have the same goal as Phillips--to win the title, not the money. I'd think you'd want to keep as much pressure on the other guy as possible...unless the money did mean something after all. Don't get me wrong--I'm sure even Bill Gates would prefer 500 grand to 200, and I'm sure Paul Phillips is a rational human being who likes more of a good thing than less of it. Still, seems a bit odd to me.

    More about Mr. Phillips--he wrote that he was watching the Clash of Champions show and was surprised to see his wife in the audience rooting for Juha Helppi. They took some stock footage from another show and edited it into that broadcast, but it was still a bit of a surprise to see his wife (then fiancee) rooting for the Finn. I have to send Paul an email, because I have some friends who are getting married and I want to know what his wife charges to appear in wedding videos. You know, just a simple five-second bit, the bride and groom enter the reception hall, and there's Kathleen clapping delightedly for the happy couple (heh heh). With all the cash her husband's won I'm sure her rates are quite reasonable.

    Still more about Paul Phillips. What wordsmith came up with his super-original nickname, ""? If I was Paul I'd demand a more creative sobriquet. And definitely not "Mini-Gus", as Vince Van Patton dubbed him in the most recent show. That deserves a lawsuit, or a punch in the jaw. But "" is just pathetic. I mean, OK, he made a bundle at an Internet company. The best they can come up with is ""? Is isn't like he invented the Internet (insert Al Gore joke here), it isn't like he's the only person on the poker circuit who made a ton of lucre with computers (see Phil Gordon). Phillips either needs to demand the WPT start calling him by his real name only or insist come up with a good nickame. Thing is, a nickname has to develop organically, you can't just foist one on somebody and hope it sticks. Take me, for example. When your given name is Eugene you're pretty much open to any other handle that comes along. And so I'm more than happy to be called Mean Gene, or Geno, or just about anything other than Eugene.

    OK, North Carolina just lost, and I had them in the Final Four. So I'm righteously screwed. Of course, you pick Florida and Carolina to go far in the tournament you deserve to get squashed.

    During the Foxwoods WPT show I was introduced to a new sensation--feeling sorry for Phil Hellmuth. Hoyt Corkins did torture our Philly, didn't he? If you haven't seen the show, there was one hand where Phil had J-9 and Hoyt had J-7. A nine popped on the flop, and when Phil bet Corkins raised, hoping to steal the pot. Phil of course called, and when a 7 came on the turn they both checked. Another 7 came on the river, giving Corkins trips and the hand. According to those little WPT popups the odds against runner-runner sevens was 314-1, and Phil got nailed. He bet, was raised, and he called the raise, and when Corkins turned over his hand Phil leapt to his feet, knocking over his chair, and went into a typical rant. I thought it was hilarious that Mike Sexton warned us that a serious whine was in the offing. Made me sit on the edge of my seat.

    If you haven't seen the show, Hoyt Corkins was about the coolest-looking player in WPT history. Big cowboy hat, neat shades...Vince was right, he did look like Yul Brynner in "Westworld". Not that I remember the movie, but I remember that Yul was dressed all in black. Anyway, he looked cool. Sounded cool, with that lazy Alabama drawl. There was one hand where Hoyt made aces on the flop and Phil made kings, and a miracle king came on the turn, giving Phil a big lead. They both checked, Phil no doubt hoping to trap Hoyt...until a miracle ace hit the river. Phil had to call Hoyt down and lost the pot. Phil took it relatively well, no chairs toppling, and he made some comment that Corkins was really giving it to him (i.e. getting lucky out the ass). Corkins drawled, "You bet on the turn you take it away from me". And the camera focuses close-up on Phil, his lips drawn in what I can only call a sneer of surprise, and he says nothing back. Good stuff.

    Mohammed Ibrahim took second, and what I found odd was the fact that Daniel Negraneu and Ted Forrest were in the audience rooting like madmen. There's nothing wrong with rooting for Ibrahim, who seems a very decent guy and a great player. No, what I found odd is that Mo and Danny and Ted play in high-stakes games against each other. I find it really weird that guys who spend much of their time trying to take large sums of money away from each other would be such buddies. Well, it's possible Negraneu and Forrest wanted Ibrahim to win so he'd have a million dollars for them to extract during their cash games. That must be it. Greed > friendship.

    OK, I'm tired, I think I'm going to bed. I'm going to try to post more, work on that poker short story I'm writing...just do more writing in general. But after two days of eating way too much, drinking way too much, sitting way too much, I'm exhausted. And it's not the good kind of exhaustion, when your muscles feel worked and your blood is pumping. It's the bad kind, when you know that you'll need to work it off during the next six weeks. But that's tomorrow. Lots more to write about, lots more to do. Tomorrow.

    Wednesday, March 17, 2004

    You mine 15 tons, and what to you get?

    Blurred vision and a fat ass. I've been working like 15-hour days the last couple of weeks, and I'm bushed. Nice to have some OT, but I've been helping out with a project that requires dull, tedious, mind-numbing scutwork, and I can actually feel my brain going soft and mushy. Add the fact that I've been sitting at my desk pretty much non-stop, and eating fast-food and takeout during this time, I feel even more glutinous than usual. Need to turn over a new leaf. Need to start bringing my lunch every day. I swore to eat more fruit and veggies last week, and I kept my promise for about a day. Then I ordered a chicken parm hoagie and fries. When you combine stress, frustration, total inactivity, exhaustion, and a high-fat, high-starch diet...well, it ain't a pretty picture. Spring is coming and I want to look sleek, not like the stunt double for Jabba the Hutt.

    Not that the next 2 days will help any. I'm taking them off to enjoy the bestest 2 days in sports--the first round of March Madness. I'll be spending my time off, uh, sitting in a bar, eating fatty appetizers and drinking beer. 2 days of alcoholic stupor and hoops and deep-fried goodies. Nirvana.

    Poker has of course contributed to the general sloth motif. I sit in front of a computer all day, come home, flip on my laptop and stare at a computer all night. Because I've been working so much I've been playing less, and when I've played I've gotten my head handed to me. Haven't had a winning day since 3/9, losing about $120 in the process. I'm still OK bankroll-wise, but I think a hiatus is needed so I can get my energy back, get my blood pumping again, and start playing better. I've been in a bit of a rut, my play has again become conservative, with no verve, flash, or panache. Waiting for the nuts might be a good career move for a squirrel, but for a poker player it's the equivelent of watching paint dry.

    I may play a bit tomorrow before the games, but I think not. I think I may step away for four or five days, study some, and come back refreshed. Hoops the next two days, on Saturday I'm taking a community college class on starting your own freelance writing business, because I want to start my own freelance writing business. Sunday I think I'll take a hike in the woods around my house, maybe turn over our garden plot if the weather isn't appalling.

    I mentioned before the I was going to look through PokerTracker and look for holes in my game, and I think I spotted quite a few, though it wasn't exactly the PT data that led to these breakthroughs. Let me share a few with you:

    Feng shui--I play poker in my den, and when the room is a mess, I play lousy. When the room is neat, the carpet freshly vaccumed, the laundry not strewn about the room, I play well. I won the Grublog Classic after giving my den a serious clean. I haven't done my domestic duties lately because of work and my play has reflected this. Sloppy room-sloppy poker. I need that neat, confortable space to feel comfortable myself. From now on, do your chores before you play.

    Dump the kitten--We have a freshly minted kitten at home. Izzy is dark gray and cute as the dickens. She also has four paws loaded with feline switchblades. My hands and ankles look like I've been goofing around with a Cuisinart. But the cuteness mitigates the scarification.

    When I'm playing Izzy likes to snuggle in the crook of my arm. She's still really young, and she likes to bury her face in my elbow and starts suckling like I was her Mommycat. This is totally adorable. Except for the little fact that she kneads her front paws against my bicep and gives me little needlepricks that get my teeth to gritting. My arms have track marks like I'm on the junk.

    When I'm holding Izzy, and she's sleeping my arms, I invariably lose. I lose bad. I lose big. That Darn Cat has cost me hundreds. And when you get rivered by an inside straight when you hold trip kings and the other guy types, "Haha!" it's hard to let loose with a really spicy stream of profanity when you're holding a slumbering kitten. You have to bottle all that rage up, and that gets you headed down the path to Tiltsville. When I really get worked up the desire to throw something becomes acute, and if I tossed Izzy over the bar I better pray the cops get me first, because I don't even want to think about what my wife would do to me. So get the kitten bedded down upstairs so she won't distract or bring bad catluck.

    Counting chickens pre-hatch--Last week I logged on to Party and saw that they made me an offer--a 15% bonus on my next deposit. Bonus whoring, baby! I planned to decamp from Empire and push my bankroll up. I was still waiting for some money to come out of Choice Poker (estimated transfer time 296 hours) so I figured I'd beef up my balance and have a nice bonus.

    I played and lost a bit. No biggie, I'd get it back. But then I lost again. Not only did I lose, I lost the 15% bonus on top of the actual cash I had on hand. I started hemmoraging chips, I couldn't get my balance anywhere near to what it was. I was down nearly $160 at one point (including a $24 bonus) and I've clawed back $40. I shouldn't have started thinking about the bonus. I shouldn't have wimped-up my play in order to get a little extra cash. I have until the 24th to make my deposit, so I'm trying to ignore the bonus, play my A-game (poker is obviously graded on a curve) and let the chips fall where they may.

    Vyvyan > Gus Hansen > Thierry Henry--I watch TV while I play, but I have it on more for background noise than to get engrossed. Not that much on TV is engrossing, especially on the networks. But you'll typically find me watching 1 of 3 types of shows-- DVD's of British comedies, English Premier League soccer, or old WPT and WSOP shows. When I'm watching my favorite Britcoms--The Young Ones, Black Adder, Red Dwarf--I kick ass and take names. I was watching The Young Ones while I won the Grublog. If I've run through my BBC collection I'll usually throw in a WPT tape and watch some folks who know what they're doing play poker. When I do this is usually do fine, but I don't seem to have my huge nights while the mellifluous Mike Sexton calls the action.

    But when I watch soccer (or "football", as those adorable and misguided Europeans and South Americans and Africans and Asians and Antarcticans call it) I tend to get hosed. I remember distinctly a horror session I had while I watched the Arsenal-Chelsea FA Cup game. Shortly after Jose Reyes hit his corking lefty missile to tie the game I got killed by a full house to my ace-high flush, liquidating my stack. I will forever equate the "Gypsy King" to a nut-crushing kick to the happy sack. Far better to listen to Vyv scream, "Yes, WE'VE GOT A VIDEO!!!!".

    I did use PT to mine some actual poker knowledge. I've won the most money playing TT. I've lost the most playing JJ. Interesting. I really have to watch playing in early position--I've won money in every spot except under the gun (not counting the blinds) mostly because I toss in a bet and either have to toss it after a raise or because I hit a bit on the flop and then get raised or re-raised holding cards that aren't worth the trouble. Leaking chips like that is just as bad as getting crushed on a huge pot, if it happens over a long period of time.

    Need to start putting comments in PT and exporting them to Empire (and vice-versa). Need to start playing better. But more importantly I need to get off my dupa and engage in activities that don't involve sitting in front of a computer, eating food that was recently immersed in boiling oil, and drinking beer. Even if, as the song goes, "these are a few of my favorite things...".

    Tuesday, March 09, 2004

    Confessions of a Dangerous Fish

    One great thing about the Internet is that it gives every individual a voice. You don't have to be a member of the liberal media or the vast right-wing conspiracy to make yourself heard--though that certainly helps. Take our little pokerblogger clique, for example--if it wasn't for the Internet we'd all be waiting by the mailbox for our biweekly copy of CardPlayer magazine, in the hope that this issue's Phil Hellmuth column wouldn't be an 800-page whine about getting outdrawn on the river.

    What the Internet lacks in editorial censorship it makes up for in editorial irresponsibilty. No matter how screwed up you may be, no matter how inherently loathsome your beliefs, you can write whatever garbage you like and post it as easily as the New York Times. Actually, the more offensive you are the better. In the vast emptiness of cyberspace the best way to get attention to to be as shrill, profane, insane, insensitive, and generally contemptous of your fellow human beings as possible. People like trash. They love rolling around in the mire. They indulge their most base perversions then demonstrate their outrage at those who have equally squalid but slightly dissimilar kinks in their own twisted psyches.

    I make these sunny pronoucements as an introduction to a post written by my very own brother, whose socio-political views are, shall we say, a bit outside my own rather liberal ideology. What fears I may have about giving a forum to my brother are counterbalanced by my First Amendment absolutionism. Basically, any nut deserves to have his voice heard, even if what he's saying is being dictated by the voices in his head.

    So here's is my brother's first poker post,, with only a bit of editing on my part. I just had to cut a 15,000 word diatribe against the UN and a joke that would probably get me in the shit with the FCC.


    I am a fish. How do I know? Because I consistently lose more then I win. Over three months PokerTracker tells me I’ve lost $1,350. But I’m a dangerous fish, because I’ve also won $1,250. Starting from an original $50 deposit that’s a lot. I’ve had my bankroll as high as $475, and as recently as last Friday was down to $11.

    I am not the fish who bets a 3-5 offsuit to the river to catch the straight. I am not the fish who re-raises you when you have the nut flush on the flop and I have bottom pair and types “lucky catch” as the chips slide your way. I'm a tight aggressive player who plays strong hands. If you are going for a draw and don’t get it you will pay me. However, I am a fish. How do I know? In the words of Jeff Foxworthy, Mean Gene’s favorite comic (editor’s note—this is a complete falsehood): “ If you lose more then you win, you might be a fish. “ I have spent the last few weeks going over my game and I have found a couple fishy parts to my game.

    Flushes: I hate flushes. I hate everything about flushes. I lose most of my money to flushes. There is a reason that flushes start with an F and its not because they are my Friend. If someone is on a flush draw, I can’t get them to fold, and I end up losing huge pots. Unfortunately I play $25 NL, which allows you to bet big, but sometimes you can’t get these people off the draw. Even worse, I can’t see flushes when I hold top pair or higher. The blinders go on, the chips go to the middle and then slide across to the other side of the table. Trying to correct this problem I’ve used the four-color deck, called the suits out loud as the flop comes, and even used four different color poker chips to show what's on the board. These I call “Fish moves”. But my money still goes the other way too much against flushes. “F” flushes, and if you have beaten me with a flush, F you too.

    Flushes drive me nuts, which leads to problem two--tilting. Could be the alcohol, could be the Irish blood, but I tilt. And when I do, my loss limit goes out the window, the beers flow and I take every loss as though you were insulting my mother while kicking my dog. I NEVER start trash talking, as that wouldn’t be proper. But if some chump change says, “thanks for the donation” after his river-drawn 9-high flush beats my trip Queens, then the XXXX XXX XXXXXX XXXXXX comes out. If I’m tilting, you are going to get my money. I’m going to be drunk and the dog will be barking at the profanity spewing from my mouth.

    You’ll most likely see me tilting when I’m up battling problem number three—loose players. I can’t beat a loose player. I tend to play to the level of the people at my table. If I'm on a loose table, my play gets loose, and you get my chips. Instead of sitting and waiting to take all of these blind-callers’ money on one hand, I try to beat them 9 hands out of 10. Stupid. Just plain stupid. I waste too much money on these types of games. I’m calling in second position with a 5-8 offsuit, then trying to bluff to get the pot.

    Then I make my stupidest move—I RE-LOAD. I’m every shark’s dream. I can imagine that I’m on many people’s buddy list. What am I thinking? Sometimes I’ve re-loaded three times to beat these SOB’s. By the time they quit, or I give up, my bankroll is destroyed. If you catch me in this situation you’re going to have a great night. I usually get the idea to quit when I realize that my beer is gone, the sun is coming up and the dog lets me know she needs to go out by urinating on my feet again.

    So I have confessed. I am a fish. But I am getting better. It’s exciting to be able to calculate pot odds and outs without a chart. I am starting to get “the feel” for the game. The moments are increasing where I know what the other player has, and I either call or drop based on that feeling. I am reading more about poker, and understanding it better. Most importantly, I’m addicted to this game, just like all the heroes who started golfing when Tiger Woods showed up and all the yahoos who picked up a hockey stick when Gretzky went to L.A. But I am getting better. And I want my money back.


    Don't bother asking what my brother's Party/Empire name is 'cause I ain't tellin'. I don't want y'all bankrupting him, 'cause I'll be the one who has to spot him until his wife lets him out of the doghouse and deposit more cash.

    I'm going to have a home game this weekend, hopefully my bro can play, and perhaps what we'll do is post our reviews of the evening's action and see how they compare. He can complain about how I rivered him time and time again--I can expound on how I played with him as the cat plays with the mouse. My dear readers can decide who speaketh the truth.

    Monday, March 08, 2004

    A delay for your pound of flesh

    Alas, I will not be able to play in Wednesday's WPBT event. Work has reared its ugly head, and those who vowed revenge after my win in the Grublog Poker Classic and dreamed of check-raising me until I burst into tears will have to wait a little bit longer. I'm ticked, I was really looking forward to playing, but a tidal wave of work is ready to break upon our shores and it's all hands on deck. So instead of dropping $20 I'll work three or four extra hours and make...$20. Well, a bit more than that. A bit.

    A reader posted a comment concerning my bitching about a bad beat in the previous post. I still think I got moderately shafted (I didn't put the hand into Pokersavvy's Bad-Beat-o-Meter, since it probably wouldn't register) but I think I understand Noel's point. If the other guy didn't put me on trips staying in with KQ wasn't THAT terrible a play. I got nailed in a hand last night to a guy holding trip deuces, and the thought that I was up against a set barely occured to me. It should have. And that's a problem. I really don't have much sense what cards the other guy is holding. That's a part of my game I'm working on, and occasionally I make good "reads", but my deductive skills are hardly Hellmuthian (I promise to stop using that word, starting now). I certainly know that it's a wee bit harder to get reads off people online because you can't freaking SEE them, but from betting patterns and some knowledge of who you're playing against you can accumulate a bit of understanding. I've been playing 2 tables lately, and doing well, but I think this is more due to other players' poor play than my own good play. Plus the fact that I got wicked lucky and won 3 pots yesterday of over $50, including an $90 monster I hit with, you guessed it, trip tens. One guy had top two pair, the other had the baby set, and I we all pushed about $30 into the pot. Bingo.

    With things going so good I think it's time to step away from the tables, study a bit, look over my PokerTracker stats in detail, and work to improve my game. It may seem odd that a big night put me in such an introspective mood, but now that my bankroll has grown to the point where I don't worry about it anymore, I don't feel quite so much pressure to play like crazy and build it up. Let me rephrase that--I might be getting to the point where I'm worrying more about the game than the money. I feel like I can play poker and make money. Hell, on Party if you aren't making money its time to take up cockfighting. But I think I can play better, and should play better, and to do that I need to dial down the multi-table trawling and work on my game.

    Before I continue let me interpose this-- I was playing my usual pot-limit game last week and we all had about $25 in front of us--except for one guy who had close to $100. He hit the century mark when he flopped a full house and had a guy call him down with trips. After the pot was pushed his way the winner said, "Well, that gets me back to almost even for the night".

    I raised my brows, and another player wrote, "I hear you. I've dropped $50 today".

    Another said, "Do you know ANYBODY who's made money on Party?"

    The guy who just won the pot wrote, "I don't. I bought in for $400, lost that, bought in again and I'm down to $150 in just a week. The whole place is fixed".

    I was so stunned I made a mistake Iggy will doubtless scold me for--I forgot to tag them on my PokerTracker database. I logged off that table when the game bogged down and totally forgot to note their fishy names. Money swimming down the drain.

    Let's see, what was I saying...oh yes, I was thinking out loud. I also want to limit my play somewhat because there's a story I'm working on and I want to get at least a rough draft done in the next week. I've been playing too much, writing too little, and I need to invert the ratio. Someone had a post about a month ago asking, "Why do you play poker". I of course play for fun, and to make money, but I also play because I like the inherent drama of poker. Blogging about poker is both easy and enjoyable because the game itself makes for great drama. You have the good guys (that's you), the bad guys (everyone else), conflict (who's gonna win that pot), dramatic tension (betting, raising, the showdown) and catharsis (whew, I won, or, crap, I lost). It's a ten-way brawl with cards and chips as the weapons instead of chairs and bike chains. Unless you welch on a bet in a bad part of town.

    OK, this has gone on long enough. I may post again later tonight, I want to write about the first WPT event, which was both odd and entertaining. Hey, watched The Sopranos premiere last night, and the episode (like many others) was directed by Tim Van Patten. Is he the brother of Vince? And if so, is he the brother married to the WPT's resident angel Shana Hiatt? Maybe I should ask WPT player and part-time Shana stalker Richard Brodie?

    Saturday, March 06, 2004

    Fish and chips

    For the last 3 or 4 days I've come home hoping a package would be waiting by the door. The chips I won in the Grublog Poker Classic had not yet arrived, and though I expected it would take 2 weeks or so I was starting to get itchy. The chips would be the pieces des resistances of my win, and anyway I was anxious to get a look at them.

    A watched pot never boils, and I was disappointed every day this week--until last night. Last night I pulled into the driveway in the dark and looked at the front door for any suspicious packages, and saw nada. But I turned my attentions forward and voila! Leaning against the garage door, a big brown rectangle, and I knew it could be just one thing. I parked and hustled my booty inside like a kid on Christmas. Opening the package and assembling the chips was a bit of a problem because I have 3 cats and, as any cat owner knows, a box is the feline equivalent of an amusement park. "Ernie, get outta there!" I yelled as I pulled out a heavy white envelope sealed with a triple layer of tape. The box was filled with shredded newspaper and our kitten went catshit, leaping in and trying to make confetti with her claws. I extricated her only to find Bert, my other big cat, hungrily dragging an envelope filled with chips across the floor, doubtless with the idea of disembowling it and eating whatever goodness lay inside.

    Once I dealt with the cats and looked over my prize, I was grinning ear to ear. The chips are muy sweet. My brother gave me some chips from his set to fiddle with, and they're very nice, but these fancy-schmancy chips are the bomb, as the kids would say. You drop them on the table and they sound like they're made of porcelein. They have a nice heft to them, and when you toss them in the pot (as I practiced doing) they make a most satisfying, and very solid, sound.

    The set also came with a dealer button, which is very cool, since last year when we played we used an empty card pack as the button. And the 2 decks of cards that came with the set are really, really nice. I've always played with Bicycle cards, but if you read the Pokersavvy article about home games they talk about what a difference quality cards make, and I can attest to that. When you bend the cards up to check them they snap straight back, they don't get bowed in the middle or easily creased. And they slide across the table during the deal so smooth you'd think they were on rails.

    Thanks again to PokerGrub for setting up the tournament and kicking in the chips. They will definetely get a workout.

    That was the good part of the night. The bad was getting killed by the fish at Empire. Once again I got killed for my entire stack early on, and that sets a bad tone for the rest of the night. I was dealt pocket 10s (the Mean Gene, as I call that hand now) and hit trips on the flop, the other two cards a scary 8-9. There was about $5 in the pot so I bet that amount, hoping no one made their straight yet and happy to win it right there. Only 1 called, and when an ace hit the turn I bet the pot again. He called, and a Jack on the flop didn't trouble me much. I went all-in, he called...and turned over K-Q. He made his straight going runner-runner after I bet the pot on the flop and the turn.

    I typed something like, "That was brutal" and he replied "I had too many outs to fold, I didn't put you on trips". Too many outs? There was a possible made straight on the board, did he think a K or Q was going to save him? This is a guy I've played against before and he's just smart enough to be dangerous to himself. I reloaded and vowed revenge. We were soon playing shorthanded, just 3 of us at the table, but I was never able to properly crush the guy. I made up about $5 of the $25 I lost and switched tables.

    I made all my losses back in one hand. I was dealt AA and raised the pot, and when only one guy came along I figured I'd win a little pot and be happy with that. The flop came K-5-5 and he made a big bet. I put him on KQ or something similar and called. Junk on the turn, I bet and he called, but when a Q came on the turn he bet everything he had. It meant me putting in like $15 and I was afraid he'd been slow-playing a 5 or maybe he had QQ. I nearly folded, but I felt there was no way he would've played a 5 or QQ that slow so I called. He turned over KQ, giving him two pair but not better than my aces & fives. Maybe all that Phil Hellmuth study rubbed off a bit.

    If only I'd gotten up at that point. I was up $5, even after my disasterous start, and I was tired. But I played on--and dropped $50. Had a guy hit trip 9s when I had trip 8s, and then I had QQ and another guy had KK and I bet my stack thinking that, since he didn't raise the flop, I had top pair. Nope. In two hands I dropped about $40, and I couldn't connnect the rest of the night. I watched my brother play a little $25 no-limit and hit the hay.

    My brother will shortly appearing as a guest on this blog, he's written something called "Confessions of a Dangerous Fish" and I'll force him to post this. He's forte is talking trash to his opponents, getting them royally pissed off, and then chopping them off at the knees. He's a creative, merciless, and profane talker of trash, the kind of guy who tilts you so bad you want to strangle him until his eyes pop and his tongue turns blue. He's skilled.

    My own skills need some sharpening. Need to re-read my Lee Jones, need to really go over the Brunson, need to find a copy of Gary Carson's book. I've been taking notes while I play, things I need to do, things I need to stop doing. Playing pot-limit has made me lazy, I see too many flops hoping for a miracle and then bet when I get clobbered over the head. I think one reason that I've had bigger wins and losses lately is my attempts to force the action a bit more, to feel like I'm playing poker as opposed to waiting for lucky hands. My goal is to refine that aggression so that I'm more a danger to the other players than myself. I think that, since I started playing in October, I am a much, much, MUCH better player than I was. But I certainly don't think I'm close to becoming a "great" player. I think I've eliminated many mistakes from my play, cleaned up some obvious holes, but there's a long way to go before I feel like I know what I'm doing. Ah well, it's only been five months.

    Coming soon--a review of the WPT season opener, an essay on poker jumping the shark, and I'm also working on a poker short story I hope to post soon. Maybe Pauly can find some room for it?

    Wednesday, March 03, 2004

    The Candy-Colored Clown They Call the Sandman

    Glad to see lots of folks read and enjoyed my Phil Hellmuth piece. Writing it, or at least not finishing it, was starting to haunt me. I felt guilty when I was playing instead of writing, reading instead of writing, eating instead of writing. I like to write and I write a lot (obviously), but it started to weigh on me. It definitely affected my play--more on that in a bit.

    When I finally posted it I felt a lot better mentally, though physically things starting going downhill. I caught some kind of stomach bug, had the massive headache, the violently upset tummy. When I got home I crashed on my recliner for 2 hours, which isn't like me. I awoke to find a kitten curled up on my chest (good) and the room spinning around me (bad). So of course I decided to play some poker.

    A few days ago I posted that I lost $100 last weekend, which shook my confidence to the core. Well, I won about $85 in 2 hours playing that fevered night, though I can't say it exactly set me bursting with pride. I played 2 of the absolute worst hands of my life that night, and it taught me something. Namely, everyone cries about their bad beat stories--but you don't often hear people confess the bad beats they put on others. Well, forgive me father, for I have sinned.

    I was dealt A-9 and called. The flop came A-7-8. There were four of us in the pot and, when the betting was checked around to me, I made a fairly big bet. Fold, OK. The turn card was another 8, giving me top two pair. I bet big again--and had my opponent bet the pot. It would cost me $10 more to call. Now, it was obvious to me that the guy had an eight, at the least. I should have mucked and lived to fight another day. But my diseased brain told me that this guy had been playing fast and loose all night, and I thought maybe he had an ace as well. My attempt at logic was irrelevant--there was no way I should call this bet.

    I did anyway. The other guy was all-in, so I waited for the river to fall and confirm my fate. An ace showed, giving me aces-full. I showed my cards, and he showed pocket 7s. He'd had a full-house himself and I killed him with a 2-outer. "Dude, I'm sorry", I typed, to no response. Won about $20 in one hand that I had absolutely no business winning. Them's the breaks, I guess.

    But you have to make your own breaks sometimes, and on the other horror hand of the night I received a king-sized break and did absolutely nothing with it. I was dealt pocket sixes and had the flop come 6-6-3 with 2 diamonds. I've never flopped quads before, and I got a nice warm tingly feeling. I was first to act and I checked, a few other players checked, and the guy on the button bet $2. I smooth-called (ha!) and one other player stayed in. Junk on the turn and again we checked it around to the button man, who bet his $2. Me and my other pigeon called. Another diamond on the turn gave me hope that one of these guys hit his flush and would pay me off.

    I checked. I checked. Read it again. I CHECKED. What the hell was I doing checking? From their timid betting it was possible they HADN'T hit their flushes and just wanted to get out on the cheap. I should've bet something, even a buck, just to maybe to lure them into raising me. I checked, the next guy checked, the third guy checked...and I won like $6 with my monster hand. I felt sicker than I already was. I felt sure these guys would've at least called a small bet, so I'd thrown away at least a few bucks by my oh-so-subtle play.

    But I was still up about $50, and I decided to play a SNG to prevent my weakening spirit from pissing away too much of my profit. If you ask why I didn't just go to sleep, the sad answer is that I was just too tired to go to bed. I was comfortable, I was warm, I had a cat to keep me company--might as well play.

    I got some chips early, but everyone at the table seemed to have some semblence of sanity and there weren't many insane all-ins like you usually see at Party/Empire. By the time the blinds got to 50-100 there were still 7 of us left, with one guy way ahead and the rest of us holding between 6-800. I caught a tough break when my pocket 9s were beaten by a jack on the river, and I was down to 300. But I went all in with KK, got 2 callers, and made trips on the flop. From there the action picked up and soon I was in the money and in 2nd chip position. Like Sean in the Grublog the bottom guy refused to go belly up, surviving a couple testing all-ins before I finally knocked him out when I held A-10 and paired up on the turn.

    I definetely need to improve my heads-up play, my win in the Grublog Classic notwithstanding. Me and this guy went back and forth for about 30 hands, and I kept telling myself, "Attack, attack, attack". This got my kitten's attention and she went for my feet, but once I shooed her away I slowly built up chips until I was up 6-2 on the guy. Then I held Q-10, flopped a pair of ladies, and went all-in. He called and showed cowboys, and the worm had turned. I battled back to nearly, but not quite even, and when I held K-J and hit a jack on the flop to make top pair I went all-in again. He again turned over pocket kings and won the day. Oh well, I couldn't complain about my luck that night. I did play much better heads-up than I had in the past, but I still don't think I played aggressively enough. I went to bed going over hands in my head, critiquing my play as I slipped into unconsciousness.

    I had one of those high-def, Dolby sound, Technicolor nightmares you often get when a bug has you. I was playing at the final table of the World Series of Poker...except that we weren't sitting at a table. We were on stools around a long, rectangular bar, like the one they had on "Cheers"...but not that exact one, if you get my point. Instead of just 9 players there were 20 or 30 of us playing, and instead of the railbirds sitting at a comfortable distance they were RIGHT behind us, looking over our shoulders, elbowing in to get drinks, knocking over chips. I had a huge mountain of chips sitting in front of me--but it wasn't a good thing, because I only had $1 and $2 chips, whereas everyone else had pink and orange $5000 and $1000 chips. Every time I tried to read my cards I was afraid I'd knock over a huge stack of my nearly-worthless chips and have to scrabble around on the ground for them.

    It was brutally hot in the room, the situation made even more unbearable by the closeness of the spectators and the fact that I was wearing dress slacks, a dress shirt, and tie, the shirt and slacks both about 2 sizes too small. I went to the bathroom and saw in the mirror that I badly needed a haircut. My hair was nearly as long and peltish as Jesse May's.

    I was dealt pocket deuces, and as I looked down the bar I saw a malevolent Howard Lederer staring back at me. He stared a long, long time before tossing his cards onto the floor behind the bar. Another player moved all-in and I made a desperate call. He turned over A-2 and I won the hand, but he had such a small stack it hardly helped me. It suddenly occured to me that I was going to be on national television looking like a fat, sweaty, shaggy mess, and I woke up nearly screaming. I think it stands to reason that if you're having fever dreams about Howard Lederer, it's time to step away from the tables awhile, listen to some good music, eat some healthy food, and get some aerobic exercise.

    Then again I'm working late tonight, and the new WPT show is on tonight. So, tonight might not be the night I take a pokerbreak. get this widget Please visit Pokernews site for more poker news, poker strategy articles or poker rules.

    Play Poker Online
    Play Poker Online at Full Tilt Poker
    Learn, Chat, and Play with the Pros at the fastest growing Online Poker Room.


    Play Poker Online at Blind Bet Poker. Bonuses and promotions by online poker rooms like Doyles Room, Titan Poker, Full Tilt Poker and Noble Poker. Poker strategy for beginners, advanced, and professional poker players. A poker terminology section, news & online poker tournaments.

    Poker Forums
    Definitive online poker portal, featuring a poker odds calculator, poker forums, an excellent poker bonus code section with deposit bonuses.

    Full Tilt Poker Freerolls
    Party Poker Strategy Guide

    The 2006 WSOP
    Total Coverage
    From the Urinals to the Hooker Bar



    Poker Savvy